Ben Needham

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  • #333541
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    Ben Needham
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    I’m particularly interested to see where people place Sainz, Bottas and the Ferrari pair… other than that, I think these listings are going to be fairly consistent.

    #333420
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    Ben Needham
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    @xtwl – well said.

    Reliability and circumstance has always been part of the Championship and always will be.

    #333419
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    Ben Needham
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    Including all drivers who participated in more than one race (ie: all but Vandoorne), my ranking and reasoning is below. Please note that I am not a particular “fan” of any driver and just enjoy the sport for what it is!

    1 – Daniel Ricciardo
    Whatever challenge Ricciardo is presented with he steps up to. Clearly better than Kvyat early season, he was then lined up against Verstappen who had the backing of the whole team to be the next big thing. Unlucky in Barcelona and Monaco, he then quietly chipped away while the focus was on his younger team-mate and showed that he’s not one to be ignored either. With highlights in Monaco and Malaysia, he brought the car home in every race and scored points in all but one. Easily the best of the rest behind the Mercedes, though Verstappen chased him hard. I’m looking forward to when/if the Red Bull’s fight at the front, because this could be a spicy partnership.

    2 – Max Verstappen
    I toyed between Ricciardo and Verstappen for my No. 1 and Max was very unlucky to miss out. Verstappen was the youngest driver in the field by some margin and frankly astonished me week after week. From his win in Barcelona to his mega drive at Interlagos, he took what was previously only potential and showed Formula One that he is a force to be reckoned with in the here and now. A competitor who attacks and defends hard for 1st, 3rd, 10th and 20th, he’s a real breath of fresh air. Low points including Monaco and Spa are the reason Ricciardo nicked it for me.

    3 – Carlos Sainz Jr
    In the early season switch between Kvyat and Verstappen, Kvyat wasn’t the only “loser”. Sainz was passed over for a promotion to the main team and must have been wondering when a space would ever appear for him at Red Bull now their line-up looks fairly secure. While Kvyat faltered and never looked like getting many points, Sainz got his head down, worked hard and put the Toro Rosso where it had no right to be. While Max was getting headlines in Barcelona, Carlos was also unbelievable on a weekend he could have been forgiven for being off-form. While the car lost ground to competitors in the late season, he still pushed into some last minute points.

    4 – Lewis Hamilton
    There’s no denying that the Mercedes was the class of the field with all but 2 victories between Hamilton and Rosberg. Hamilton clearly had the poorer luck of the two cars reliability-wise, but also made a few problems of his own, with several bad starts in the first half of the season. Few have mentioned/remembered that even after the Malaysia blow up, the Championship was still in Lewis’s hands until a poor race in Suzuka. Other than that, he was on fire for periods of the season, particularly the 6 out of 7 wins between Monaco and Germany and the final four races.

    5 – Fernando Alonso
    While the McLaren/Honda was still pretty poor, Alonso had another stellar season. A period in the second half of the season saw him as “best of the rest” behind the Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari cars and he duly racked up 54 points, more than double that of his team-mate. He can only hope the McLaren can challenge next year for wins/podiums or he may well call it a day.

    6 – Nico Rosberg
    “Undeserving”? Of course not. I’ve never placed a World Champion as low as this in my rankings, but I cannot help but admire Nico Rosberg this season. He was unflappable and drove the most logical season I’ve seen in a long time. A crushing start to the season was followed by a crushing restart after the mid-season break and that was all he needed. When Hamilton retired in Malaysia (as happens in Formula One), Rosberg followed it up with a brilliant victory in Suzuka and wisely followed Hamilton home in the final four races. In my opinion Hamilton was (and is) clearly quicker than Nico, but Rosberg is the 2016 World Champion and that will be his forever.

    7 – Sergio Perez
    Perez had probably his most consistent year so far, scoring points in every one of the last 10 races. However his highest highs came in the first half, with two brilliant podiums in Monaco and Baku. While pretty evenly matched with Hulkenberg, there’s a reason that Perez has enjoyed so many podiums while Hulkenberg still waits. Perez is a dark horse and Force India should be very pleased to hold on to him in 2017.

    8 – Sebastian Vettel
    Following a brilliant 2015, Sebastian cut a frustrated figure in 2016, despite going into Turn 1 of the season leading. He had the worst of Ferrari’s mechanical problems and there was rarely a good strategy to be seen (Abu Dhabi an obvious exception). The opposite of the cool headed Kimi, Vettel often let situations get to him and Mexico was not the only time he fired expletives into his radio. Kimi was a lot closer this year than in 2015, but Vettel just about saw him off.

    9 – Kimi Raikkonen
    Has Raikkonen finally silenced those calls to retire and open the Ferrari seat for someone else? He had by far the cleaner season of the two red cars, but rarely challenged for the podium after the opening races. Despite this, he picked up points regularly and often ran ahead of Vettel, outscoring him in the qualifying head-to-head, something usually seen as a Vettel strong point. It’ll be interesting to see how they compare next year… Ferrari is one of the teams we’ve heard little about when it comes to 2017.

    10 – Nico Hulkenberg
    Almost as consistent as his team-mate, but without the podiums. Hulkenberg often threatens a great result before falling away. After 6 seasons in points scoring cars you begin to wonder whether a podium will ever be reached. Moving to Renault makes perfect sense in my opinion; an Alonso-style gamble, as Force India will never (hope to be proved wrong) be a championship winning team… Renault just might be.

    11 – Valterri Bottas
    It may just be me, but I’m yet to see the hype justified in Bottas. Yes, he’s beaten Massa, but not comprehensively enough in my opinion. He took a good podium in Canada, but other than that was fairly uninspiring. Usually seen on the wrong side of overtakes, but that may simply be because he’s put his car where it shouldn’t be in the first place. He’ll need to beat Stroll convincingly next season to continue to be seen as one of the “next big things”.

    12 – Romain Grosjean
    The start of the season was the stuff of dreams, but the year quickly went off the boil. The scoreline in comparison to his team-mate flatters Grosjean, but he scored the points when it mattered most and that’s what is important. Few real obvious low points, but he did trail the lesser-rated Gutierrez in too many races.

    13 – Jenson Button
    Jenson was arguably the equal of Alonso in 2015, but was generally found pretty far behind him this year. It’s fair to say that Jenson is a force to be reckoned with in a car that is perfect, but struggles to drive around any issues. This car and engine combo most certainly has issues. The right time to retire in my opinion, with a good career behind him and a car that is still unlikely to suddenly be the class of the field in 2017 passed to the next generation.

    14 – Esteban Gutierrez
    Took a lot of unfair criticism this season for failing to score points while Grosjean had many. He’s not world class, but he had the beating of Grosjean enough to make the Frenchman uncomfortable. His replacement by Magnussen is an upgrade in my opinion and Gutierrez has now had enough chances in Formula One without really delivering much.

    15 – Felipe Massa
    As ever, a solid pair of hands, but rarely seen in the races doing much of any note. A lot of good points scored in the battle with Force India, but was still just beaten by Alonso in a very poor McLaren. If Button is making the right decision to retire, then Massa definitely is.

    16 – Pascal Wehrlein
    Wehrlein is a strange case this season; to the casual viewer he seems to have put in good performances, winning a point, getting into Q2 occassionally and generally beating his team-mates. He was passed over for the Force India seat by his team-mate (who, granted shows a lot of potential) and looks set for another year at the back in the Manor. A strong first season though by my reckoning.

    17 – Esteban Ocon
    Ocon shows a lot of potential and was starting to beat Wehrlein by the end of the season. It’ll be a big step up to the Force India and the challenge of Perez as a known quantity could either make or break him. Raced well in Brazil but got little attention other than that.

    18 – Jolyon Palmer
    The two Renault’s were most difficult to place for me as the car was poor, the drivers seemed poor and the results were poor. While Magnussen scored the most points (due to a single finish in Russia), Palmer was a little more consistent and did often beat Magnussen, who came into the season expected to destroy him.

    19 – Kevin Magnussen
    Magnussen replaced Maldonado at fairly late notice, but was expected to have the beating of Palmer. Most would argue that he did, but I think this year has damaged his reputation badly and he’ll need an excellent year at Haas to recover it.

    20 – Marcus Ericsson
    The quote often banded around with Ericsson is “the least worst Sauber driver”, which I would agree with; in 2016. I would caveat this by saying that I’ve heard he often gets the better equipment (no idea if that is true!).

    21 – Felipe Nasr
    Scored points when it mattered to save his and the teams season. Was generally found behind Ericsson.

    22 – Daniil Kvyat
    The less said about Kvyat’s 2016 the better. He started in a Red Bull and finished on a bike! Perhaps unlucky to be given the boot initially, Verstappen’s performances have proved that it was the correct decision. Given the rare Red Bull challenge of a demotion he responded horrendously, far off Sainz in almost all races and never looking secure in challenging for points. He needs a long winter to recollect himself and has to beat Sainz in the first 4 or 5 races or the same thing will happen again with Gasly waiting in the Wings (poor pun intended).

    23 – Rio Haryanto
    Haryanto was clearly the worst Manor driver this year, but he wasn’t as far behind Wehrlein as reputation would have suggested. He didn’t embarrass himself, but doesn’t belong in a list of the world’s 22 best drivers.

    #317241
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    Ben Needham
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    @f1bloc – Hi Sajid, how cheap are we talking? :-)

    #303835
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    Ben Needham
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    @amlh44 – I drove down last year and have to say it was brilliant. Of course, you go through a few tanks of fuel and there are the tolls, but the views are excellent.

    I’ve heard bad stories about flying to European GP’s, including the rush to the airport post-race.

    I’d urge you to drive; it was a great experience for me.

    #300270
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    Ben Needham
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    While I think Mika Hakkinen is often very underrated, if you have any doubts about whether Michael Schumacher would have won the 1999 World Drivers Championship then I urge you to watch highlights of the 1999 Malaysian Grand Prix.

    After months out of the sport with a severe injury, he came straight back and beat Irvine to pole by a second. He then sped off easily into the lead before back off, letting Irvine through and thoroughly trashing Hakkinen’s race!

    As Irvine said afterwards: “Not only is Michael the best number one driver – he is also the best number two.”

    #300181
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    Ben Needham
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    The reason I asked the question was because it was one that I really struggled to answer, so I’m glad that three separate people have rated three different drivers highest!

    @brickles – afraid I wouldn’t rate Irvine higher than any of them except Blundell. Although to be fair he was faster than Herbert in the 2000 Jaguar R1.

    #300151
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    Ben Needham
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    I’ve been a Rubens Barrichello fan since I started watching the sport in 1994/1995 and I was very close to copying Rubens’ tears after his first GP win at Hockenheim in 2000. That was an amazing moment, back when the sport was how it should be! Proper engines, unpredictable, raw emotions, big crowds! Perfect.

    #300150
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    Ben Needham
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    So lucky to say I lived my dream last year and wouldn’t have changed a thing!

    1. Breakfast in which place? Steaming fry up of bacon, egg, sausage, beans and bread.
    2. Your choice of any race on the current calendar: Monza, sat at the first corner basking in the sun!
    3. Post-race concert at any venue: Eddie Jordan and the Robbers at the camp site opposite the first chicane.
    4. Dinner in which place? Authentic Italian pizza’s just down the road from the circuit.
    5. Overnight in which place? Camping in the middle of one of the most famous circuits in the world after a good few beers with some great blokes!

    #300143
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    Ben Needham
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    @fastiesty – I had forgotten about Brundle’s accident, but remember him being very close to Senna on occasion in junior categories, so perhaps he didn’t live up to his full potential. I certainly rate him very highly.

    That’s a very interesting article as well, thank for that, really good read.

    #294770
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    Ben Needham
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    To share my experience from last year in the hope of encouraging everyone with any slight doubts to stop thinking and just do!

    I drove down to Milan from the UK in a mini-bus with 9 friends. We stayed at Camping F1 (the site that backs onto the pit straight) and had an absolute blast! The racing was mega, the sun was out, the food was superb, the beer was cold, the atmosphere was unbelievable and the fans were loud. I can’t give higher praise than that.

    We only had general admission tickets but managed to make use of the free roaming grandstand access on Friday, then on Saturday we managed to get good standing spots on the inside of the track on the exit of the first chicane. We also had a good walk around the old banking (steep!).

    Sunday is where it gets really good… on Saturday night we drove the minibus right up to the fence on the camp site backing onto the pit straight next to the first corner… come Sunday morning we climbed onto the roof of the minibus and enjoyed the sun until the race started; which we viewed from the best seats in the house at the first corner!

    Not sure if anyone could recreate that – but if you can; well worth doing!

    It was genuinely the trip of a lifetime and if I get the chance to do it again; I most certainly will!

    #287857
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    Ben Needham
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    Not ranked as there’s not enough to go by:
    Andre Lotterer
    Will Stevens

    22-11:
    22: Sutil – with his experience, should have taken a few points but was poor all year.
    21: Chilton – Outdone by Bianchi, but was once again reasonably reliable.
    20: Gutierrez – as bad as Sutil, but could use the inexperience card!
    19: Ericsson – behind Kobayashi most of the year, but improved when the car was modified in his favour. Still, in my opinion, undeserving of a promotion (?!) to Sauber for 2015.
    18: Maldonado – added to his catalogue of errors early in the year and just generally didn’t impress, with the exception of a few races.
    17: Kobayashi – nothing to suggest that he outdrove the car at any point, while in general comfortably ahead of Ericsson.
    16: Raikkonen – a bit harsh perhaps; but Kimi was well and truly trounced by Alonso and came nowhere near to a high points scoring finish. Never shockingly bad but there were no high points.
    15: Magnussen – a cracking start petered out very quickly and he was never close to Button at the end of the year.
    14: Grosjean – in truth, I didn’t see any major moments to indicate he was having a good year. Clearly better than Maldonado though and deserving of a good car.
    13: Vettel – falling through the rankings with the same card as Kimi and Kevin, a driver must always be measured against his team-mate, and was consistently far behind Ricciardo.
    12: Hulkenberg – Hulkenberg wasn’t exactly poor, but once again never had the high points that Perez had. Still deserving of a top drive in my opinion, but I didn’t feel this was his best year.
    11: Perez – Sergio once again had higher high’s and lower low’s than the man in the other car, but I feel he was better than Hulkenberg this year.
    10: Kvyat – Had some very good high points and was generally an equal to Vergne, but still had some inconsistencies to iron out.
    9: Bianchi – Maybe a little biased ranking, but I felt his battling Monaco drive was worth it. An amazing high for the team and a driver with so much potential. I hope, but don’t expect, to see him back soon.
    8: Vergne – Some great drives, especially after he’d been dropped. Generally very impressive and in my opinion more deserving of the Red Bull drive than Kvyat.
    7: Massa – Improved from Monza onwards and was very impressive in the final two races. While Bottas is, in most eyes, better, Massa will prove a worthy opponent should Williams be fighting for wins next year.
    6: Button – Was immense in the second half of the year, crushing Magnussen and really putting the McLaren where it didn’t deserve to be. Would be insulting to drop him.
    5: Rosberg – I didn’t rate his season as well as some other people. Slower than Hamilton at almost every race, I think he was in the Championship battle more by Hamilton’s misfortune than by anything else. Still had good drives and good wins, but will be nowhere near next year all being equal.
    4: Alonso – Was far better than Raikkonen but still wasn’t one of his golden season’s like 2012. Mainly because the car didn’t allow it. The right time to leave Ferrari with his huge reputation in tact.
    3: Bottas – An interesting prospect but I don’t remember any killer drives like Ricciardo. He was almost on the podium by default in some places, but was still brilliantly fast and generally better than Massa.
    2: Ricciardo – Ask me in September and Ricciardo would be easily top driver this year. He was so much better than Vettel it was embarrasing. Could have been champion with a better Bull.
    1: Hamilton – In my opinion, easily the fastest driver this year. Won every race he could and soundly beat Rosberg on the track and in the standings.

    #280166
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    Ben Needham
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    I went to the 2008 British Grand Prix and it was superb! A great race, plenty of overtaking, differing strategies, bad weather, spins, crashes and terrific atmosphere… a classic British Grand Prix. But I would have loved to have been there for one of the famous Mansell victories, probably 1987. I bet the atmosphere was electric!

    #275123
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    Ben Needham
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    I started watching very young and remember every season from 1997 very well (with a few scattered memories before that).

    Since then my favourite seasons have been 1999, 2003, 2007, 2010 and 2012.

    The main things that constitute a great season for me are controversy, title fights, new faces at the front and tension throughout. These seasons certainly had oodles of all of that!

    #274151
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    Ben Needham
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    I’ve just returned from an unbelievably superb weekend at Monza! A group of 11 of us left the UK on Wednesday night in a mini bus and enjoyed a few drinks, stunning scenery and very little sleep, while arriving in time to set up at the Camping F1 site on Thursday evening (we missed the pit walk!).

    While the weekend was brilliant for a number of reasons, I’ll stick to the racing part of it for this in order to advise (/insist) that you go next year!

    There were roving grandstands on Friday, and we made use of them by sitting at Variante Ascari for FP1, before shifting to the first chicane for FP2. The weather was excellent (except for a brief shower), and it was stunning to see the cars throwing themselves at the first corner shining in the sun. The tifosi were obviously keen on the Ferrari’s and it was slightly infectious! (There seemed to be more support for Kimi than for Alonso…).

    For Saturday we managed to set up on the exit of the first chicane; building our own grandstand from wood we found in the park. This left us with a sweaty, satisfied and hungry team; with a great view of the cars through the first corner, and a sneak peak at a couple of screens to see Hamilton take pole. The Italians were surprisingly very keen on Hamilton and we were joined in our support for him by many of our fellow spectators!

    On Sunday – we realised that our Saturday set-up would likely be sieged early on by another group of fans, so hastily came up with a plan B! One side of our campsite ran from the exit of the pits up to the first chicane, so we craftily parked our mini bus at the fencing the night before. A leisurely start and a bit of a climb later – we were sat on top of it, in the sun, a cold beer and nibbles accompanying a stunning view of 22 cars piling into the first corner. We were a little disappointed that Hamilton wasn’t first, but it made for a lot of excitement seeing Rosberg being reeled back in again. At the end, the gates opened and we ran to the podium celebration; an incredible experience to be a part of the famous tifosi.

    We had our own twist on walking the circuit once everything had died down… being a tad naughty, we had borrowed some shopping trolley’s from Lidl, and took them onto the circuit, staging our own race around the entire circuit; one sat inside, with another as ‘the engine’. Our laptime of 1hr:03mins wasn’t quite fast enough for pole though…

    It was truly amazing; for so many reasons, and I cannot reccommend it enough; it’s a must for all F1Fanatics – and at £80 for an early bird (January) three day ticket, it’s a steal compared to Silverstone!

    We spent an additional £300 each on travel, camping and food and lived handsomely on Italian pizza’s and (possibly a few too many) beers.

    …needless to say, work is a little bit tricky and dull today!

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